What is IBS?
IBS is a common gastrointestinal disease that is characterized by abdominal pain, bloating, bowel movement irregularities, and other digestive issues. People with IBS can have varying symptoms from mild discomfort to debilitating pain. 1 The exact cause is unknown, but some potential triggers include inflammation, food sensitivities, changes in digestive motility, and brain-gut interactions. 2 3 There are a number of simple, natural approaches to IBS you can try that have been proven to help improve IBS symptoms in many people. However, individual bodies and experiences are different and what works for one person may not work the same way for you. Consult a healthcare professional to determine the best treatment route for your individual case.
Natural Ways to Improve IBS
Probiotics are the good bacteria that are essential to a balanced, healthy gut microbiome. Probiotics are known to improve overall digestive health and can decrease pain and other problems associated with IBS. 4 In order to increase your intake of healthy gut bacteria, consume more fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha and look to quality supplements. Be mindful that too much of a good thing isn’t always a good thing and you can cause imbalances by consuming too much.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Stress can cause symptoms of IBS to appear or worsen, and research shows that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an effective way of coping with stressors and helping to mitigate IBS symptoms associated with brain-gut interaction. 5 CBT is a type of psychological treatment that focuses on changing cognitive habits and behaviors in order to improve emotional regulation.
Melatonin, commonly used as a natural sleep aid, can also help lessen the severity of IBS symptoms. This is because melatonin regulates the movement of intestinal muscles. 6 Melatonin can be taken as a supplement or you can increase your consumption of foods that are naturally high in melatonin such as walnuts, almonds, oranges, bananas, and pineapples.
Studies show that peppermint oil can significantly improve symptoms in patients suffering from IBS. 7 Peppermint contains menthol, which works to relax intestinal muscles and reduce pain. 8 Always choose therapeutic grade peppermint oil supplements. Those with reflux problems such as GERD should avoid consuming peppermint.
Foods to Avoid
The following foods and drinks are common triggers for IBS and avoiding them can make a big difference.
- Dairy products
- Carbonated beverages
While the above list includes the most common problem foods for those suffering from IBS, everyone’s body is different. Speak to a licensed naturopathic doctor to come up with a personalized treatment plan that takes your individual health requirements into account.